That’s simply the way the Portland Trail Blazers plan to roll this season, a different player stepping up when he’s called.
Aldridge scored nine of his 25 points late in the fourth quarter to help the Blazers hold off Denver 113-98 on Friday night, spoiling the home debut of Nuggets coach Brian Shaw and snapping their 23-game regular-season home winning streak.
“Top to bottom, solid win for us,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.
Batum was the go-to scorer early, getting all 21 of his points in the first half.
Then, Matthews came to the rescue as the Blazers saw a 26-point lead late in the third quarter shrink to 101-94 with 4:57 remaining. Matthews hit a 3-pointer late to give the Blazers some breathing room.
And that set the stage for Aldridge, who closed out the victory by hitting jumper after jumper over a steady rotation of Denver defenders.
“It’s good to have a guy like that who can make those plays and guys can play off of him,” said Stotts, whose team got back on track after a season-opening loss in Phoenix. “The way we kept our composure when they made their run is something we should be proud of.”
That wasn’t quiet the case for the Nuggets as they suffered a rare home loss. Although they made a late run, Shaw still called his squad’s early effort “lackluster.”
“Our team looked very tired, just to be honest with you, from the jump,” Shaw said. “They just looked winded. They looked like they were the team that played in altitude and we were the team that was coming in on the second night of a back-to-back.”
“Came out a little flat in the first half,” Robinson said. “We kept the crowd involved by trying to get energy from them.”
Last season, the Nuggets constantly fed off the crowd noise and were nearly unbeatable at home. The last regular-season loss for Denver was on Jan. 18, against Washington. The team then reeled off 23 straight wins to finish a league-best 38-3 at home. Denver fell at home to Golden State in a first-round playoff game.
“We just didn’t come out and play,” Lawson said.
So far, the Nuggets have been slow to grasp the new system of Shaw, who was hired after George Karl was fired following a season in which the team had a franchise-record 57 wins. Shaw said it might take some time for the Nuggets to fully adopt his style, which features more of a half-court offense rather than an up-tempo pace Lawson and the Nuggets grew accustomed to under Karl.
“We knew this was going to be a process,” Shaw said. “The way we’re playing I don’t think is the problem. Tonight, defense was the problem.”
Hard to argue. The Nuggets gave up 64 points in the first half and allowed the Blazers to shoot 14 of 22 from beyond the 3-point line.
“We didn’t play defense and it was just too big of a hole to come back from,” Lawson said.
Batum scored the Blazers’ first 10 points of the game. Aldridge got into the act when he hit a jumper midway through the first quarter.
The 6-foot-8 Batum stayed hot the rest of the half, scoring 21 points – including five 3-pointers – to help the Blazers take a 64-50 lead.
“I have to find a balance for creating everybody else and creating my own shot,” he said. “Tonight, I tried to score first.”
The Nuggets have been experimenting at small forward with Wilson Chandler sidelined by a strained left hamstring and Danilo Gallinari out until at least December as he recovers from a torn ACL. Denver has triedAnthony Randolph and even Evan Fournier, who’s more of a guard, at the spot.
“Just trying to find the right mix,” Shaw explained. “I don’t think everybody is settled into when exactly they’re going to be coming into the game. It will be that way until we get everybody back in the fold.”
NOTES: The Blazers open at home on Saturday against the San Antonio Spurs. Portland has won its last four home openers. … Matthews finished with 12 rebounds. … Portland snapped a nine-game slide against Denver at Pepsi Center. … Shaw said before the game there’s no timetable for Chandler’s return. … Nuggets mascot “Rocky” got the wind knocked out of him while performing a pregame stunt. … Nuggets F Kenneth Faried had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
– By Pat Graham, AP Sports Writer
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